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Worlds to endure: weathering disorder from Arnhem Land to Chicago

Global Networks

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In this article I consider the cosmopolitical enfolding of Western and indigenous ontologies of order and disorder implicit in the production of a ‘carbon offset’ by the West Arnhem Land Fire Abatement (WALFA) project. The resumption in Arnhem Land of broad‐scale land management by indigenous fire ecologists and its reframing as ‘carbon farming’ is contextualized within an historical analysis of the distinctions made between ‘magical thinking’ and ‘rational’ notions of agency, causality and cosmic order. I move from the account of Australian totemism in classical anthropology, through cold war climatology, to the theories of rational expectations that support contemporary carbon trading. Examining the entangling of Aboriginal and late‐modern pyrotechnical orders, I contrast ubietous (place‐oriented) ontologies of land, law and cosmic order with their Western counterparts in sovereignty, land law and finance theory. Arguing that the elder Australians possessed a philosophically coherent political economy grounded in detailed earth sciences and topological networks of economic practices, I reverse the anthropological mirror back upon the economic doctrines of the neoliberal era, which advocate the reimposition of order on the wild climate by means of a comprehensive financialization.